fb-pixelThe Peloton ad angered America. That’s why Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin ad is so brilliant - The Boston Globe Skip to main content
Janelle Nanos

The Peloton ad angered America. That’s why Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation American Gin ad is so brilliant

A screen capture from Aviation American Gin’s newest ad, starring “Grace in Boston” as herself.Ryan Reynolds/YouTube

Driving angry is problematic. Going to bed angry isn’t advised. But shopping angry? Well, that might actually have some benefits.

A researcher at Northeastern University has found that consumers who shop while angry have an easier time making decisions about their purchases, and tend to be happier with the results.

Marketers who can harness anger to their advantage stand to make strong connections with consumers. That’s why actor Ryan Reynolds’ new ad for his brand of Aviation American Gin, which uses Monica Ruiz, the actress featured in the controversial “Grace in Boston” Peloton commercial, is so brilliant.


The second ad features a seemingly stunned Grace grabbing a drink with friends during the holidays. She raises a glass and toasts “to new beginnings” to signify she’s moved on.

Alexander DePaoli, an associate teaching professor of marketing at Northeastern, and his colleagues at the University of Miami and Northwestern University, conducted a series of experiments that provoked anger in various test subjects — making them play impossible-to-win games, having them recount a particularly anger-inducing moment in their lives, or DePaoli’s preferred method: “Just asking people about politics.”

The researchers then asked the subjects to make a purchase decision — choosing a new laptop based on the quickest processing speed for example — and watched them react.

DePaoli said that generally, anger tends to make people “more powerful and in control, it makes them feel like they have a better understanding and grasp of the situation.”

So they found that when customers went into shopping experiences feeling agitated, they’d be more focused on their needs, and not get distracted by things like the price or the size of the laptop’s screen, for example. In the end, they’d walk away from the experience feeling more satisfied with their purchase.


DePaoli said he’s spent his career conducting experiments about how emotions factor into consumer decisions. Anger isn’t something typically associated with shopping — no retailer is out to provoke a customer into making a purchase — but he said it felt like it was playing a larger role in day-to-day commerce.

“I felt like there were a lot more people getting angry about their consumption decisions than they used to be,” DePaoli said. “Between boycotting things and people raging at Peloton ads, anger seems to be a more top-of-mind emotion for consumers than we otherwise might have thought it to have been.”

About those Peloton ads…the holiday commercial featured a woman, “Grace in Boston,” taking selfie videos for her husband showing how his gift of the exercise bike has changed her life. It evoked widespread outrage from the public, who saw it as sexist.

DePaoli says that when a consumer’s anger is directed at a brand itself, they won’t channel that anger into hate-buying (and that was evidenced by Peloton’s stock taking a hit this week). But he says that advertisers who recognize a rising tide of anger can use it to their advantage, using keywords on social media — and even emojis — to target ads at those angry shoppers that speak to their needs.

He said marketers who saw a negative response to Nike’s recent Colin Kaepernick ads could have pushed products that could target “people who are in opposition to what Kaepernick has come to represent,” with pro-law enforcement or other conservative messages to help increase uptake and sales.


And he said other athletic brands could step forward with positive, healthy messaging to act as a foil to Peloton’s problematic campaign.

That’s where Reynolds’ recent ad comes in. He hired the same “Grace in Boston” actress for a short, 41-second spot for his brand of Aviation American Gin. In the ad, which he tweeted Friday night, she’s staring at the camera again, but this time she’s with friends, and with a glass of gin in hand. “This gin is really smooth,” she says. Her friends nod, and offer to buy her another drink. “You’re safe here,” one says as “Grace” downs her entire glass.

The ad channels the internet’s collective rage, and offers a salve. Drink up, it says, you don’t need to be angry anymore.

Janelle Nanos can be reached at janelle.nanos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.